MONROE - A nearly yearlong study of the recreational path that runs along I-275 in southeast Michigan is nearing its final stages and plans for renovations and changes to make it more accessible could be available in early fall.
Built in the 1970s, the "non-motorized" paved trail that parallels I-275 from Buhl Road in Monroe County through Wayne County and into Oakland County was one of the first recreational pathways in the state.
However, the bike path fell into disrepair. Pavement on the 42-mile trail and its 29 bridges has deteriorated, some areas are overgrown with weeds, and crossings at high-traffic areas in the 13 communities along its path are dangerous.
The eight-mile stretch in Monroe County was closed in 1993, and the eight bridges were eventually removed by the Monroe County Road Commission.
In an effort to revive the bike way, the Michigan Department of Transportation contracted with engineering and consulting firm Wade Trim. Forums to gather public input on the project have been held since late last year.
An open house last week in Frenchtown Township was among the last such meetings planned by MDOT.
"We are nearing the end," said Jeff Edwards, MDOT project manager for the study.
The forums allowed participants to review recommendations for possible improvements, including proposals for extensions south to Monroe and to connect to Sterling State Park near Lake Erie.
"We are trying to determine how we want to connect on the southern end," he said.
Mr. Edwards said the portion in Monroe County needs the most work.
"Parts of the bike paths are open. Most of the path north of Monroe County is in better shape than what is in Monroe County," said Mr. Edwards.
Nancy Krupiarz, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, whose group is working with MDOT to host forums on the project, is urging bicycling advocates and others with ideas for the Monroe County sector to contact MDOT and Wade Trim to voice their opinions.
"We are still trying to get the word out," she said. "We think there needs to be a grass-roots voice to show MDOT that there are a lot of people who want this to happen."
Mr. Edwards said the consultants are close to wrapping up their findings and will issue a report to highway officials. He said the report will be available to the public in about four months.
"We would like to move forward to implementing the actual recommendations of the study. But we don't know what that will be yet," he said.
"But we need to stress that this is a long-range plan, and it will not be rebuilt from beginning to end with repairs to the entire path, especially with the transportation crisis we are going through now."